Tuesday, September 8, 2015


A Brilliant (and Useful) Bourbon Book

By Doc Lawrence

Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan's classic Wine for Dummies ranks as one of the most useful and original resources for those like me who appreciate honest commentary and credible suggestions about wine without all the irritating stodginess. My esteemed colleague Fred Minnick has accomplished much the same with his latest work, Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker (Zenith Press 2014).

For those who want to understand Bourbon, you must first endure a discouraging labyrinth of confusing terms, myriad brands and regulations that are rooted in post-Prohibition America and crafted by special interests.

Minnick offers a tutorial on what this elixir is and is not, distinguishing between quality products and marketing blarney. I couldn’t find a single sentence sucking up to a distillery or corporate goliath.

Minnick, who began his career writing sports stories in Oklahoma and came to write about combat in Iraq, recognizes that not all Bourbon enthusiasts live in Kentucky. The cheerleading is left for other authors-and they are legion-while Minnick, serving the interests of consumers everywhere, explains and simplifies. And the Bourbon industry is better for his effort.

Bourbon, like Bordeaux, begs for some special attention. The devil can be in the details and shopping blindly will often disappoint and cost too much money. Turn that around, become a well-informed consumer, and you’ll discover some taste thrills and an occasional bargain.

Bourbon begs for clarifying language.  It’s one thing if you are making it; quite another when shopping for a bottle to enjoy later at home. Esoterica may have a place with those selling Bourbon or for ponderous mixologists. One read of this book and everything seems simpler: we understand some Bourbon basics particularly the role of grain, water, wood and time. You don’t need a degree from MIT to appreciate what Bourbon pioneers knew long ago.

Bourbon Curious is a well-written utilitarian guide. It will be just as useful a decade from now. And let’s face it: as time goes by there will be hundreds more brands of Bourbon on retail shelves..

Bourbon is far more enjoyable with a splash of enlightenment. Fred Minnick performs a great consumer service by slicing through the Gordian knot of jargon, rules, laws and marketing mo-jo, occasionally with biting commentary. Always with accuracy.

Don’t dare go Bourbon shopping without a copy of Bourbon Curious in hand. A perfect gift for those who enjoy all-American cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a nice pour over chunks of ice.

1 comment:

  1. Fred Minnick's new Bourbon book is the perfect tool for consumers. A brilliant production from a gifted observer.